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Lord's Supper and the Passover Seder
Though it is not likely that the Lord's Supper was at an actual Passover Meal at the normative time for Passover, nevertheless it was the Passover, and the Passover Seder in particular, which provided the "material" for the Gospel narratives concerning His last supper on earth. The following elements point to this close relationship.
- Jesus sent out his disciples to prepare for the Passover which He would eat with them before he suffered Lk. 22:8. . He called the meal that they were about to eat "Passover" and eagerly desired to eat it with His disciples.Lk.22:15.
- Though Matthew and Mark report Jesus taking the bread first and then the wine and speaking of His body and His blood, Luke reports that there was also a cup drunk before the bread. The taking of cups of wine before the meal is in accord with both Jewish Sabbath sancification (kiddush), and the Passover Seder.
- The Gospels indicate that there was a meal eaten at the last supper after Jesus took the bread and saying "This is my body..."* and before Jesus took th3e cup saying "This is my blood...". "Likewise, after they had supped, Jesus took the cup". This is in accord with the Seder where there are two parts to the ceremony separated by the Passover meal. In the Apostle Pauls day, the Lord's Supper was still being celebrated in the context of a meal - which people where abusing, forgetting, in their ravenous behavior, the reason why they were to celebrate. (This happened in Judaism as well. The boiled and roasted egg on the passover plate, also called the Hagigah - the Festivity, is meant to represent the lamb eaten outside the temple area by the family before the Passover lamb was slain. This lamb is meant to slake the appetite of the worshippers so that when they do eat the Passover lamb, it is not eaten ravenously, but with thought as to its significance. )
- In the Passover Seder, besides the frequent mention of Matzah with intent to recall the happenings of Israel in Egypt and the hasty flight from it, there are two specific referrals and focusing attention to Matzah by the father to the household. This is fairly at the beginning of the service, with the Aramaic "This is the Bread of Affliction" prayer and toward the end of the part before the meal. Jesus could well have lifted up the bread at either of these two points telling what He intended as the new meaning for the old rite - His broken body for them all. This would have set the motion for the Disciples henceforth continuing to celebrate the Passover but that under the new sign of the New Covenant which would have a new name from what the Lord was to do for them. And so, the Passover Seder would become, the Lord's Supper, and Holy Communion, and Eucharist. Instead of a once a year celebration on the 14 of the month Nissan, the "little passover" for the Christians was celebrated once a week remembering Christ, "their Passover", on the day that He rose from the dead.
- Significantly, the cup that Jesus took immediately after the meal to signify His blood "shed for you and for the many", is called the Cup of Thanksgiving. This then would be the context for His speaking of His blood shed for them. The note for disciples listening would be gratitude for what He was about to do for them -though this could only surface after the pain of losing Him. The Last Supper for the Christians would be called Thanksgiving -"Eucharist"
- There was a "sop" given by Jesus to Judas to urge him now to do his dirty work. There were at the Passover Seder bitters, "Maror", to remind of the bitter servitude of the children of Israel in Egypt. There was also salt water for dippings of the Maror for the same purpose. There was also the mixture known as Haroset for the same purpose - recalling mortar for Pharoah's building projects. The sop given by Jesus to Judas could well have been any of these dippings and mixtures - already laden with bitterness, which Judas had now come to continue and bring to a new plane.
- The form of the Passover was already in the form of a "sacrament". that is, it was not considered a contrivance of men for a greater purpose to be or not to be performed as considered apt. It was a command of God to be fulfilled, which He would see, and after which, the people having performed it, could say "Nirtzah" - Accepted! This is in accord with Jesus saying "Do this in Remembrance of Me" and in accordance with the fact, that from that first Lord's Supper, this "doing" continued on in the Church as an essential aspect of the worship of he people. They were "doing" what the Lord commanded to be done.
Note: The Gospel use the word Artos in Greek and Lahma in Aramaic meaning "bread" (and so the Apostle Paul) rather than the words for unleavened bread. But this may be a "modernization" to the later non Jewish believers and after the Christian "little passover" was more removed from the strictly Jewish Passover observance. The Greek and Aramaic New Testament Gospels would then not be the original, though they are the earliest now in our possession. This has more force if the Jerusalem School of Gospel origins is right in their assertion of an original Mishnaic Hebrew written source upon which our present Greek texts depended.